Seasons & Sabbats

Winter Solstice Lore and 7 YULE Traditions for the Modern Pagan

Winter Solstice is usually celebrated on Dec 21 (just a day after my birthday). But Yule is celebrated for exactly 12 days from Dec 22 until January 2. Ancient people and our hunter-gatherer ancestors who spent most of their time outdoors, were the first to notice the changing of the seasons and therefore probably the first to recognize the coming of Winter.

Yule’s Meaning and Ancient Winter Solstice Origins

Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice or Yule is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Winter holidays are observed by various cultures and religions to mark the beginning of the lengthening of the days and shortening of nights. Yule is a time of great symbolism and power. It reminds us that after a season of long, cold nights and short days, the sun’s return is imminent. Pagan Yule predates the Christmas holiday by thousands of years. And yet, this holiday has been reformulated by Christians and renamed “Christmastide.” 

Yule’s Pagan Gods and Goddesses

Scholars have connected the original celebration of Yule to the Wild Hunt, Demeter as the Dark Mother in Winter, the Winter Goddesses, the celebration of Dionysus and Brumalia, Baldur and his association with the mistletoe, the god Odin, and the Pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. But if you think about it, nearly all cultures and faiths have held some sort of winter solstice celebration or festival. The theme of endless birth, life, death, and rebirth, is ubiquitous no matter the culture or faith. Whatever path you follow, there’s a big chance that one of your tradition’s superstitions, rituals, gods or goddesses has a Yule connection.

Winter Solstice Traditions for Modern Pagans

1. Family and the Yule Log

As a modern pagan or witch, celebrate Yule by joining festivals, feasting, singing, dancing, and spending time with loved ones. The most important and the funnest of all is lighting the Yule log. Hold a ceremony where you and your family can light it together. Nothing says warm and cozy, and keeping evil spirits at bay quite like bonfires with your nearest and dearest.

2. Self Reflection on Winter Solstice

The winter solstice is a great time for self reflection. There’s no better time to do this than during the darkest and longest night of the year. Wrestling with an issue? Realizations and epiphanies come by easier in the quiet stillness if the season. But it doesn’t have to be the only thing you do this winter solstice. In fact, this is the best time for you to do your Yule rituals!

3. Yule Prayers

One of the easiest thing you can do is offer up a Yule prayer. You can start with offering a prayer to the Earth. A prayer to notice that even though everything seems still or lifeless, nothing is truly dead. Animals are in hibernation and the plants will be a symbol of rebirth once more. Nothing stays dormant forever, even in the areas of your life where you think it is. Offering this prayer will make you realize that as the days go by, the cycle turns, and the areas of your life that seem stagnant will no longer be, as evident of Spring. It will come and you will bloom along with it.

4. Sunrise, Sunset, and Snow Prayers

You could also offer a Yule Sunrise prayer, welcoming the Sun when it first rises on the 21st. Feel like venerating all the astronomical occurrences during this season? Offer up a Sunrise prayer as well as a Sunset prayer, and a Snow prayer. If you want to honor your gods as well, there are Yule prayers you can offer to the Winter Goddess, the Sun Gods, and the Old Gods. You could search the prayers that resonate with you or you could craft your own. Combine both if you please.

5. Twelve Days of Yule Devotionals

Tired of praying? You could also try a different devotional each day for 12 days or until Yule celebrations end.

6. Cleansing Ritual

A good cleansing ritual is welcomed to, in fact, I strongly suggest! Before decorating your home with your Yuletide decorations, clean your space of both physical dirt and vibrational dirt. Use your broom or besom to sweep away all the negativity as both a symbolical act and to collect the literal dust and dirt into a bin.

7. Yule Altar and Winter Solstice Tree

Lastly, don’t forget to set up your Yule altar and holiday tree. And as most pagans do use a tree, don’t forget to bless it, both before cutting it and right before throwing it away after the season is over. Personally this is my most favorite altar transformation. It’s the cheeriest of all the Sabbaths. Use whatever items that call to you the most.

Goodbye Long Nights…

Incorporate new traditions or old ones that resonate with into your Yule rituals. You could do this as a solitary practitioner or together with your loved ones. Say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new. The Sun returns to the Earth and life blossoms once more.

By Kristine Ibañez Lua

Winter Solstice Origins + 7 Modern YULE Traditions for Pagans

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2 Comments

  1. Krampus: Who is Krampus the Christmas Devil? His Ancient Pagan Origins

    November 27, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    […] Winter Solstice Lore and 7 Yule Traditions for the Modern Pagan […]

  2. Anonymous

    December 19, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    So inspired to get that Yule log up and burning. Let the cycle keep turning!

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